From Conversation to Collaborative Action:

Reflections from UNGA Dinner

The following was written by David Solomon Founder of and Christine Mendonça Founder of Humans on the Move and Advisor to Convening17.


On September 25, 2015, the United Nations adopted a comprehensive agenda to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all” by 2030. The agenda comprises 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), including SDG 4:  Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning for all. To catalyze action and align efforts to achieve SDG 4, a group of global conveners have formed a partnership to launch the Convening17: Cross-Convening Strategy. At its core, the strategy will connect networks and mobilize resources to scale solutions for education. It will engage leaders to identify solutions and articulate recommendations for implementation through a series of strategic working sessions hosted at global conferences throughout 2017-2018. Once refined, the Convening17: Cross-Convening Strategy could be applied to additional SDG’s in the future.

Launch of the Convening17: Cross-Convening Strategy

During UN General Assembly Week in 2017, an intimate group of global change makers gathered for an evening of conversation jointly hosted by and They gathered to discuss collective solutions to the challenge of improving early childhood education for refugee communities hosting the forcibly displaced.  Leaders in the sectors of business, philanthropy, humanitarian aid, and other global influencers challenged one another to accelerate, amplify, and scale efforts to address UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, Quality Education, for vulnerable children in communities grappling with forced displacement.

Lord Michael Hastings, CBE, KPMG International’s Global Head of Corporate Citizenship graciously hosted the evening. After introductions, to inspire guests, Tamara Lakomy, a founder of Blueprints shared her personal experience of rising from the slums of Tunisia to becoming an archaeologist, author, and advocate for education as the bedrock of long term economic development in rural and indigenous regions.

Guests were seated at 9 different curated tables for the evening, and each were encouraged to share their challenges and successes in their respective roles in addressing the gaps in education for communities of forced displacement. They were then invited to leverage their fellow group members to elevate potential solutions to those challenges, within the network created at the table.

Conversations centered around:

  • Financial solutions: specifically how do we fund not just education, but the wraparound needs that must be addressed for learning experiences to be successful?  

  • On the ground solutions: What is currently working in frontline communities? What are barriers to expanding successful solutions?

  • How do we unlock philanthropic capital to catalyze solutions and expand organizational capacity?

  • Global cross-convening strategy: How can this conversation evolve and build over time?

  • How can the private sector to bring assets that will help to solve the education gap challenge?

This inaugural event served as the relationship builder and catalyst for the conversations that followed through 2017 and 2018.